Friday, September 19, 2003

[Moby Dick]

Isabel has raged through, uprooting trees and spraying brush all over the roads in her fury. As I drove into work this morning, I noticed that a surprising amount of the area has power — about every other traffic light was working normally. Though it was odd to pass through one dead light, then through a working one, then through another dead one.

And yes, I did go to work this morning; we were notified that we’d have to take vacation time if we didn’t come in. I’m still a bit angry about this. They expect us to work through a hurricane. How dehumanizing.

And those arguments about finances – “But they couldn’t afford to…” – are bull. You can afford it. You can make yourself afford it. We’ve got water five feet above the streets in some places, and this company’s decision makers can’t show the compassion to let people not come in? You know how much a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal costs? D’you know how many companies placed full-page ads in the WSJ after the 9/11 attacks, expressing their sympathy?

Anyvay. My power went out early last evening, so I spent most of the night talking to Saalon and reading Moby Dick. I’m about twenty pages from the end of that novel, and it remains quite unusual. I can’t wait to finish it and write up a review.

Saalon and I chatted mostly about online worlds, and their potential. We agreed that most MMORPGs focus too much on combat, where the essential resource of the game is monsters. In order to do anything, you have to kill monsters to build up your character. We talked about ways of addressing that, of making a game where the focus is on interaction with the world rather than killing monsters. Interesting. I’ve written up about half a page of notes on one possible game that would address this.

Imagine a game set on a verdant, newly-discovered island. You are a settler who is dropped off a boat onto this island.

The island is divided into squares, where each square is about 15 feet wide, and has a set of attributes: soil type, height, percentage of rocks, etc. Each square can contain bushes, trees, or a building.

The player can harvest certain materials from soil: clay, iron, or sand. Players can harvest wood from trees, and fruit from bushes. As material is harvested from soil, the soil slowly reverts to a “neutral” state, but you’d have to harvest a lot form a given chunk of soil to deplete it of that material.

Wood can be used to make a fire, which can be used to forge iron into various implements, including knives. Knives can be used to whittle wood.

Every week, a ship stops by the island, drops off supplies, and will buy stuff from the players. Moreover, every week the ship posts a list of items that it will pay top dollar for — difficult-to-construct items that might require the cooperation of many players.

Each island is a server, of course, so the game would have multiple servers. All the islands are ranked by the value of the goods they export. You want your island to be #1.


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